February 6, 2013
Vol: 20 No: 6

News

Cleaning house

By Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

Using new scrutiny, city cuts funding to nine homeless day centers

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For those who provide services to the homeless in Seattle, it’s a new world.

For the first time, the city of Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) gave six-month “conditional” contracts to three prominent social service organizations. In order to continue to receive funding, they must provide the city with more information about who is using their services and how often.

HSD announced its funding portfolio Jan. 31, with $3.3 million for day centers and hygiene services,

$1.2 million for housing placement and support and $9.9 million for transitional housing, shelter and supportive housing. Shelters and housing services all received a slight increase in funding.

Because HSD is providing funding to two new day centers run by the Seattle Indian Center and the Pike Place Senior Center, existing day centers received a 4.3 percent reduction in funding, a loss of $10,000 to $50,000 each.

Of these, the YWCA, the Low Income Housing Institute and Mary’s Place must improve language in their proposals to the city or improve data collection from clients for the Safe Harbors program, which is required by the federal government.

Service providers say it costs them to collect this information, and the city has not done enough to help.

Officials from the day centers have asked the city to, at a minimum, maintain the 2012 funding levels and consider increasing funding to the programs.


Urban Rest Stop

At Urban Rest Stop, a hygiene center run by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), Program Manager Ronni Gilboa said she is considering cutting weekend and evening hours or not buying toothpaste and shaving cream for clients.

Urban Rest Stop will have to cut hours and services to the 5,600 people it serves, even as demand continues to grow, Gilboa said.

Sharon Lee, Executive Director of LIHI, said the city’s cuts are unnecessary because the city had already budgeted for more. Mayor Mike McGinn and the Seattle City Council provided an additional $200,000 for day services that HSD has not yet distributed.

HSD Director Dannette Smith said that funding will still be distributed as part of $1.5 million in extra funding for homeless services, but the money was allocated after this funding process began.


Mary’s Place

At Mary’s Place Day Center, a drop-in program for homeless women and their children, the city’s new demands to count every person will eat up most the money they receive from the city, said Executive Director Marty Hartman.

Until this year, homeless people could go to drop-in centers without disclosing personal information. Hartman said determining how to collect and manage such information has been a moral and operational challenge.

“Day centers have been the last place where [homeless people] can go and get help and not feel like someone is tracking them,” Hartman said.

LIHI already collects the data for federal funding, Lee said. But the city has been unable to receive the data into its system and has not responded to requests to meet with LIHI, she said.


Holding the line on emergency shelter

Introduced last year, the city’s new funding system was designed to fund programs with the best outcomes. That would mean eventually reducing funding to shelter services, ideally because the shelter services would not be needed.

But Smith said because the King County’s Committee to End Homelessness has agreed to focus on emergency shelter under pressure from organizations such as SHARE/WHEEL and Real Change, emergency shelter funding will remain the same.

For existing day centers, it’s a different story.

“The existing agencies all got a little bit less money,” Smith said. “That was the money I had available to me.”

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